The Los Angeles Lakers are going to be a formidable team this season and have already proven that by beating the Houston Rockets in come-from-behind fashion without the services of Andrew Bynum and with a slightly hobbled Kobe Bryant. They won that game in large part due to their improved bench, which was weakness of the Lakers last season.
Steve Blake was big in that game and he's always been a guy that's given the Phoenix Suns fits. Pau Gasol, another guy the Suns have no answer for, put up the insane box score line of 29 points and 11 rebounds against the Rockets front line.
In other words, sit back and open a cold beer and prepare to have your expectations lowered because the chances of the Suns Beating LA -- despite the 10,000 times you are going hear or read "Beat LA" -- are slim to highly unlikely. But as they (we) like to say, "nothing's impossible," which is "why they play the game." Didn't you know was sports cliche day?
The Suns are coming off an impressive win over the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City last night. They put together the kind of game they are going to need to get wins this season, which includes scrappy, active defense; superb bench play; and great outside shooting. Phoenix got standout performances from Grant Hill (12 rebounds); Goran Dragic, who was fantastic despite a sore knee (11 points, six assists in only 15 minutes); and, of course, Hakim Warrick who showed progress in being the roll man the Suns pick and roll needs (18 points, 11 rebounds).
On the downside, the Suns only got to the line 16 times and Robin Lopez in two games has a combined nine points and 11 rebounds. He fouled out of the Jazz game in only 20 minutes. Perhaps Robin is feeling the pressure of being "The Man" and understanding that the Suns are going to need big things from him this season, or maybe he just had a couple of bad games.
The Suns were able to survive without Robin on the floor much against a smaller Utah front line, but against the Lakers, he's going to have to play huge if the Suns have any chance of keeping this game close. That match-up between Lopez and Gasol will be the most important on the floor despite all the attention that will be paid to the Goran Dragic vs. Sasha Vujacic side show (should Phil Jackson even play Mr. Sharapova).
Even with the properly lowered expectations that come with playing the rested defending NBA Champions on the second of a back-to-back, this is still the Suns home opener and there's no reason not to have fun with it; just don't hang your head if the home team leaves the court without the win. This one falls on the hands of the NBA schedule makers who, for some reason, thought it would be funny to put the Suns and Lakers on national TV without the benefit of an even playing field in terms of rest.
Phoenix Suns from around the web:
- The Phoenix Suns Rock and Roll all over the Jazz 110-94 - Bright Side Of The Sun I shed a small tear as I saw Warrick and Nash put on a developmental show. It was like something was starting to click in Warricks internal clock - he stopped listening to his logical instincts and started trusting Nash and his amazing balls. More and more throughout the game Nash wanted to run the PnR with Warrick and each time his confidence would improve and he'd dive harder to the basket - drawing fouls and finesse finishing around the rim.
- Jared Dudley Reports From Utah; Yes, Those Are Some Very Skinny Jeans - Desert Dirt - SB Nation Arizona Jared Dudley continues to give glimpses into the Suns locker room, which consists of a slight Hakim Warrick with the "Holy-crap-I-can't-believe-I-play-with-Steve-Nash look" still shining in his eyes, a taciturn Grant Hill and a hipster Steve Nash.
- NBA Scores And More: John Wall Struggles; The Suns Bench Shines - SBNation.com But the real story was the defense. The Jazz allowed 115.8 points per 100 possessions, cheating too much off Phoenix's shooters. Sometimes, you have to live with Steve Nash beating you as a scorer, and the Jazz weren't willing to accept that. They also struggled with guarding Hedo Turkoglu in pick and rolls, something the Suns figured teams would when they traded for him.
- SLC Dunk - For Utah Jazz Fans Plus side... there weren't as many FTs this time around. That said, the Jazz were cold from downtown (3-13) while the Suns were feeling it (10-26). Fesenko only played 6 minutes, Evans didn't play (for some unknown reason), and the team looked pretty bad. That said... the booing was probably a bit much. Even though the team looked lethargic (at best), its only 2 games, and half of the team wasn't here last year. (To play devil's advocate... they could still look like they at least cared a little bit).
- Five things to watch in Lakers-Suns matchup | Lakers Blog | Los Angeles Times Though Sasha Vujacic didn't see the floor in the season opener, Jackson is considering matching him up with Goran Dragic because of their contentious history, but it remains uncertain considering Vujacic's the last man on the back-court depth chart
- Phoenix Suns run and gun, stifle Utah Jazz for first win Part of what sold the Suns on giving Warrick a four-year, $18 million contract was how he played against them. Warrick's strong dives to the hoop on pick-and-rolls helped him deliver an 18-point, 11-rebound game, his first double-double since he did it against the Suns in January.
- Phoenix Suns like their big men as is for now "I love playing with Hakim," Frye said. "You can still see he's trying to think about what he's supposed to do and not as aggressive rolling to the hoop. Once he gets that down, it's really going to open up our shots.
- Phoenix Suns 110, Utah Jazz 94: Suns win first game of season | Valley of the Suns Six Suns scored in double figures and all 10 players who entered the game played at least 15 minutes. The balanced effort was a welcomed sight after not seeing much continuity throughout the pre-season and first regular season game.